SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 3 Salisbury University men's lacrosse team will take on No. 9 Wesleyan (Conn.) University on Sunday, May 27 at 1 p.m. in the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse National Championship at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls earned a return trip to the national title game defeating Gettysburg College, 8-7, in a thrilling semifinal game in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Six different players netted goals for the maroon and gold led by Griffin Moroney, who netted three to add to his postseason outburst. Moroney netted two of three markers in the second half netting both less than a minute after the Bullets took one-goal leads. Moroney leveled the game at four all at the 8:15 mark of the third quarter and then struck again less than a minute into the fourth quarter to tie the game at 6-6.
The game was an overall back and forth contest, which saw six ties and two lead changes. Emory Wongus, who finished the game with two total points, netted one marker for the game but it was the most important one as it stood up as the game winner at the 4:15 mark of the final frame. The defense was called on to make a late stand as the unit held Gettysburg in the final two minutes anchored by a last second save on the door step by Brandon Warren.
How they got here
Wesleyan advanced to its first national title game in program history downing 2017 runner up and No. 1 Rochester Institute of Technology, 19-18. The Cardinals raced out to an 11-5 halftime advantage over the Tigers behind a six-goal second quarter. However, Wesleyan had to hold on as RIT came out firing in the second half outscoring the Cardinals 13-8 including a nine-goal fourth quarter. The Cardinals had to survive a desperate last second shot attempt by the Tigers that was denied as the clock hit zero.
Wesleyan had seven players' net goals and were led by senior Harry Stanton, who netted a team and game-high six goals in the contest. Stanton's sixth goal of the afternoon was the most important one as it pushed the Wesleyan back to two, 19-17, with just over a minute left to play.
Nice to meet you
Sunday's championship game with be the first ever matchup between Wesleyan and Salisbury.
A season within the playoffs
The 2018 senior class will be participating in their 18th NCAA playoff which is effectively a season for some programs. As a group the eight seniors have combined for 123 groundballs, 54 caused turnovers, 23 goals, and five assists. Looking at the numbers on the defensive end the 123 groundballs would rank in the top 50 in the nation during the 2018 season with an average of 6.83 groundballs per game while the 54 caused turnovers would rank tied for fifth in the nation with an average of 3.00 per game.
The 23 goals scored by the senior class in their 18 games played in the NCAA playoffs would tie the amount scored in the 2018 season by six players in the Capital Athletic Conference. The 123 groundballs would rank send in the conference during this past season while the 54 caused turnovers would rank them first among all CAC players from this past season.
It's a process
Wesleyan is making its first trip in program history to national championship weekend after a historic win over No. 1 and previously undefeated RIT, 19-18, on May 20. Head Coach John Raba guided the Cardinals to their second straight NCAA playoff appearance after not having been in the tournament since 2009. Since taking over the program Raba has guided the program to six postseason berths in the tournament including three straight from 2005-07 while claiming the New England Small College Athletic Conference in 2009.
During Raba's tenure the program has seen winning season's 21 times in 22 years with the only losing season coming back during his first year at the helm when the team finish 5-8 in 1997. Before Raba took over the program saw on 13 winnings seasons from its inaugural year in 1960 to the final year under coach terry Jackson in 1996, with seven of those 13 winning season coming under Jackson's guidance. The 18 wins posted by the 2018 version of the Cardinals is the second most in program history surpassing the previous second-place mark of 17 set by the 2001 Wesleyan team but still finished two games behind the winningest team in program history, the 2017 team that finished the season 20-2. The 2018 senior class will also graduate as the winningest class in program history.
Three trips, three new faces
The Sea Gulls have now advanced to three straight national championships and become just the seventh men's lacrosse program across all divisions to join the history books in that category. The first program was Johns Hopkins University from 1978-80, followed by Syracuse University from 1988-90, rounded out by the University of Maryland from 2015-17.
At the Division II level Limestone College was the first team to ever face three different opponents during its 2000-02 national championship run. Le Moyne College was the second team, facing three different opponents from 2006-2008, winning two of the three.
At the Division III level only Hobart College had accomplished the feat of playing three different teams from 1981-83.
One final record
Should Salisbury win on Sunday the Sea Gulls would claim the title on Sunday afternoon they would tie Hobart College with 13 national championship titles, which is the most across all three divisions of men's lacrosse. Coach Berkman and Salisbury would need one more title to surpass the Statesmen and become the all-time winningest program in terms of national championships in men' lacrosse history. Hobart was denied a chance at its 14th national title in 1994 by none other than Berkman and the Sea Gulls, who went on to claim their first championship that season.